A composition by Francis Henslow, 1854 (ALMFA, SLT)

Indigenous music was reported by George Robinson, his journals of journeys in the 1830s describing the singing and dancing of his 'sable cousins'. Camping with groups of Aboriginal people, his evenings were often 'spent in conviviality, singing and dancing, until a late hour making the woods to echo with their song… The song they call LUN.NER.RY and the dance TRUE.DE.CUM'. Robinson discovered great variety in their songs and dances, and consistent enthusiasm for them.

European music came with the first settlement in 1803 in the diverse groups of early settlers: convicts, their guards, sealers and other free settlers. In 1822 John Deane (1796–1849), an English violinist, teacher and organist, came to Hobart as a bookseller and entrepreneur. In 1825 Australia's first pipe organ was installed in St David's Church in Hobart where Deane became organist. Prior to this the choir was accompanied by a small band of wind instruments augmented with low strings. Deane encouraged and assisted Italian-born British Army musician (40th Regiment bandmaster) Joseph Reichenberg (1790–1851) in his musical activities. In 1826 Reichenberg's public concerts included an arrangement of Haydn's Surprise Symphony arranged for string quintet. The previous year he published, in Sydney, what he called 'the first set of Quadrilles for Australia'. These pre-dated 'Sydney Quadrilles' by William Ellard, published in the 1830s. Reichenberg's other compositions include 'The Hobart Town Quadrilles' and pieces for military band. In 1829 he moved to a girls' school at Ross where he continued to encourage musical activities, and taught singing and Italian. Deane and Reichenberg were mainstays of music-making in Hobart in the 1820s and 1830s.

Vincent Wallace (1812–65), consumptive composer of the enormously popular opera Maritana, stayed in New Norfolk for a time in 1835. Legend has it that he found his inspiration for the most enduring song from Maritana, 'Scenes That Are Brightest', in vistas of surrounding hills observed from the Bush Inn.

Bushranger Martin Cash recalled in his ghosted memoir (1870) an occasion at Christmas 1842 when prisoners at Port Arthur created a special concert with a variety of acts, including extempore songs and verses from convict Francis MacNamara, 'Frank the Poet'. The journals of Irish exile Thomas Meagher record singing around a campfire in the late 1840s. He mentioned songs such as 'The Bells of Shandon', redolent of his native Ireland. Historian John West, too, recalled (1852) hearing 'around the camp fires of central Tasmania' a song concerning the convict escape of 1829, the 'The Cyprus Brig'.

Composers Frederick Augustus Packer (numerous songs and choral pieces) and Francis Henslow ('The Campbelltown Waltzes', 1849) were significant in the mid-nineteenth century. Henslow's music was some of the earliest commercially printed in Tasmania. Music was more formal in larger country and town houses. Vocal and instrumental pieces played from imported printed music were common. The piano, violin, flute and occasionally the harp could be found in Tasmanian drawing rooms. Music-making was an accomplishment expected of a well-educated woman. The arrival of teaching orders of nuns, especially from Ireland, supported the teaching of music. JS La Mont's 'Our Tasmanian Home' is a characteristic song requiring the standard domestic resources of piano and voice, its appeal to those emotions common in Victorian parlour ballads.

Anne Clarke (b 1806, retired 1847) was an entrepreneur, theatre manager and performer. Under her guidance the first Australian performance of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro was given in Hobart in 1845. Clarke, one of many unjustly neglected figures in Australian cultural history, imported several important musicians for productions in Tasmania, including Gerolamo Carandini, Frank and Emma Howson and Theodosia Sterling. Tasmanian-born opera and concert singers, Amy Sherwin (1855–1935) and Lempriere Pringle (c.1870–1914) both enjoyed successful careers at home and abroad. In the 1870s at Launceston Sherwin gave a concert of the temperance songs, such as 'The Bit of Blue' (dedicated to Booth of the Salvation Army) by Canon Marcus Brownrigg.

The rise of community- and sometimes industry-based brass bands in the late nineteenth century saw the emergence of performers and at least one composer of international significance, Alex Lithgow (1870–1929), often called 'the Sousa of the antipodes'. His marches were as popular with bands in North America and Europe as they were in Tasmania.

Tasmania saw many celebrated musicians in the twentieth century. Internationally celebrated pianist, Eileen Joyce (1908–1991), was born in Zeehan. Her overseas concert and sound recording careers as well as work in film created a profile for Australia. One of Australia's most significant twentieth-century composers and teachers, Peter Sculthorpe, was born in Launceston in 1929. Jan and Beryl Sedivka have been long associated with string teaching in Tasmania. Both arrived in Australia in 1961. Jan Sedivka, a Czech-born Australian, has been associated with important performances and recordings of music by contemporary Australian composers. He was appointed Director of the Tasmanian Conservatorium, which was established in 1972. Significant performers of jazz include Tom Pickering and Ian Pearce who recorded for 'Swaggie' Records. Many popular music groups represented Tasmania in the later twentieth century. These included Beethoven (which transformed into The Giant Hamsters), Wild Pumpkins at Midnight, Singing Kettles and Philisteins.

Established in 1948, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra developed into a significant force, especially in broadcasting and recording. Harpsichordist and forte pianist, Geoffrey Lancaster, studied, performed and taught in Hobart. An important leader of the Tasmanian Symphony Chamber Players, he has been a force in the early music movement in Australia.

Further reading: A Carr-Boyd, Classical music of colonial Australia, two CDs and monograph, [Australia], 1996; N Plomley (ed), Friendly mission, Hobart, 1966; P Parsons (ed), Companion to theatre in Australia, Sydney, 1995; J Cullen, Young Ireland in exile, Dublin, 1928; B & F Mackenzie, Singers of Australia, Melbourne, 1967; K Brisbane (ed), Entertaining Australia, Sydney, 1991; R Covell, Music in Australia, Sydney, 1970; W Bebbington (ed), The Oxford companion to Australian music, Melbourne, 1997.

Jeff Brownrigg